Bandsplain is Back with Road Trip-Worthy Music and Talk

The show, hosted by writer Yasi Salek, provides hours-long deep dives into cult bands and artists.
Rick Rodney

After almost four months off the air, cult music guide Bandsplain is back with new episodes each Thursday. The show went on hiatus when its parent company, Spotify’s Studio 4, disbanded earlier this year. But host Yasi Salek wasn’t ready to quit just yet, so she revived the program via Ringer Podcast Network last week. The first episode of the reboot: a four-hour, part-one crash course on Smashing Pumpkins.

Bandsplain maintains its original mission of acquainting outsiders with subculture-spawning groups like Insane Clown Posse and My Chemical Romance. When it started in February 2021, the show operated under a somewhat traditional structure – it switched off between music and talk, but all episodes were roughly an hour long. They did open with an intro song composed and voiced by Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast) and Jennifer Clavin (Bleached): “Never heard this band in my life.” “Oh you haven’t? I love them.” “Really? Why?”

Salek extended the run-time of her episodes gradually. By summer 2021, listeners were consuming three-plus-hour deep dives on Red Hot Chili Peppers and Modest Mouse.

“I get really obsessive, and I want to overturn every stone,” she tells SPIN. “That slowly led to more and more length. Now there’s no limit.”

Salek says the reception for this change has been largely positive; some listeners have actually complained that their favorite bands received too little air time relative to those she covered later on.

She brings in a guest to co-host every episode, usually a journalist with a deep passion for the music at hand. Photographer Atiba Jefferson is such a big Bad Brains fan that he has, we learn from his episode, a tattoo based on the song “I Against I.” Other guests have included poet Hanif Abdurraqib (the MCR episode) and music critic Jessica Hopper (Joni Mitchell).

Conversations between Salek and her co-hosts range from lively banter to awkward, stilted dialogue (see: Mark Richardson on the Neutral Milk Hotel episode); not everyone can match Salek’s explosive, Valley girl talking style. Fans are already iconizing her religious attention to musicians’ star signs, use of the word “babe” in every other sentence and catchphrase “goddamn, gorgeous, beautiful song” on a Reddit page, r/Bandsplain.

Over a year and a half into creating Bandsplain, Salek hasn’t pinned down her audience demographic. The show initially drew mostly Gen X white men (“I mean, okay,” she admits, “I’m guessing at their race.”). Recently, though, she’s seen engagement from young women (perhaps 24-year old astrology girls like myself?). Salek also has listeners more knowledgeable about the music than the unacquainted but curious audience she’s targeting: “It seems that the deep heads sort of appreciate maybe just feeling seen in their fandom.”

Bandsplain will continue evolving beyond its original format. Taking a break allowed Salek to consider more deeply which artists and bands to feature next. Throughout it all, she plans to keep prioritizing her inner madness over pre-established podcasting templates.

“We’re just gonna keep going,” Salek says, “until there’s this show that’s like 36 hours long and I don’t sleep and the aurora borealis like swallows itself and the universe just caves in.”

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